At Abbey Coffee

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Located in Marion, Indiana, Abbey Coffee is my new favorite coffee shop. My previous favorite has transitioned, through its success, from coffee shop to bustling restaurant and thus is no longer a place I can while away the hours. Starbucks is ubiquitous and predictable, but lacks character or surprise, so I find muself coming happily back tothe Abbey.

Though its name might suggest a place cloistered and dim, the Abbey offers instead a yawning, spacious warehouse vibe. The concrete floor is bare and exposed, chipped of paint and textured with pock marks and cracks. The ceiling stretches up two stories, with the ductwork intentionally visible, pipes crossing at angles to it and steel beams gridding it all. Single Edison bulbs are suspended from long, wavering cords that sway slightly in the breeze wafting in from the open garage door, all glass, which fronts the shop. In favorable weather, the baristas pulley it up, bringing in a wash of twilight and a smooth breeze.

In keeping with the warehouse minimalism, the chairs are gey metal, though in an interesting, modern shape, arranged under tables that have heavy, wrought iron claw pedestals and thick unembellished wood slab tops. A few apholsterd wing back chairs are placed around the perimeter, softening the effect. To the left, an open stairway, edged with wire cables, ascends to a loft outfitted with a cluster of overstuffed chairs flanking low coffee tables. A line of high swivel  pull up to a bar that runs the length of the loft and looks out over the space below.

One of my favorite features of the Abbey is an elevated stone fire pit, several feet square, flanked on all sides with deep-cushioned couches.On mellow nights, the fire is lit, and bright orange flames lick the sky, bending in the direction of the breeze. The cooler air around it alternates on my shoulders and face with the waves of heat that waft my way. Shadows soften on the grey concrete floor and the Edison bulbs brighten in the growing dimness.

Abbey is almost always just comfortably busy, not packed, with music unobtrusively mingling with the sound of baristas clicking cups, tables of students talking quietly, laughter occasionally spilling into the space between them and me.

Thoug “industrial warehouse” is definitely the feel of this place, stripped of embellishment with clean, simple lines, somehow the atmosphere does not seem at odds with a medieval abbey. It is a space that feels welcoming, airy, comfortable, and unique. Its understated, simple decor allows lingering, nurtures thought, and even, somehow, fosters solitude, even in the midst of small clusters of people hunched over books or laptops, or playing a board game set up on one of the wooden slabs.  three-paneled piece of art, each canvas as tall as I, conveys the mood of Abbey perfectly: it depicts a muted snow scene, with peasant women in long, flowing robes clustering to talk, bearing packages, in perpetual quietude, not attending to anyone in the room.

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